Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease characterized by the gradual breakdown and eventual death of nerve cells (motor neurons), leading to muscle weakness and impaired physical function. The cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is mostly unknown. Genetic abnormalities, chemical imbalance and autoimmune diseases (where the body’s defence system attacks itself ) have been suggested as causes.
Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Symptoms of ALS may begin as muscle weakness, cramps or twitching in a limb, clumsiness, and tripping. Gradually, more muscles are affected and the weakness becomes more severe, leading to loss of important functions like speech, swallowing and breathing. These symptoms are similar to other neurological disorders and in order to rule out these conditions your doctor may perform blood and urine tests, MRI, electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (tests the activities of muscles and nerves), and muscle biopsy.
Treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
There is no cure for ALS and treatment is based on slowing the advancement of symptoms, preventing complications, and improving your survival, independence, and quality of life. Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat any chemical imbalance present to alleviate symptoms. Your treatment plan includes physical therapy, to help with mobility, occupational therapy, to help you in your daily activities, and speech therapy. As breathing becomes more difficult, you may require mechanical ventilation for assistance.